Well done, Hammer Horror. Well done.
So, today I decided to take off my pyjamas and head out into the exciting world of lone film watching. Now, as mentioned in a previous post, Hammer Horror film studios put out a film version of the play/novel The Woman in Black. I have been counting down the days until its release, wondering just how they were going to do what the play did when it came to bringing the story of Arthur Kipps to life from the story told by Susan Hill in her novel.
Let’s set the scene first. It’s a grey day here in Harlow (do we have other days?) and a bit rainy. I thought I’d walk down to the cinema to see the film for two reasons: I really could not wait to see it, and of those who I would go with, I was sure only 50% of them (there is only two, but I feel like saying 50% makes me sound like I have more friends) was really up for it and I wouldn’t dream of putting someone through a scary film when they didn’t want to see it.
Cut to grade nine, me seeing The Ring. Horrific. Still have nightmares. Don’t even joke about it.
Also, if I like a film, I will go see it more than once, so if 100% of my friends (all two of them!) did want to go, I’d go again. Simple. I saw Van Helsing in the theatres four times because four different groups of people wanted to go. That, and Hugh Jackman gets shirtless and has long hair in it, so…Do I really need a reason to go multiple times? Nope!
Anyway, the film. No, wait, still setting the scene.
So, I get to the cinema (theatre, cinema, potato, pota-I’minEngland) and get my ticket, then wonder to the shop next to it to kill time, as I was half an hour early. Not relevant to the story, but there it is. Life’s like that.
When I came back to get myself a seat (after getting sweet popcorn, which should be a thing in Canada), I walk into the theatre to see a distressing amount of children. Eight or so, but for the film that I was seeing, I felt that was a lot. I also saw a former student who seemed alarmed to see me, so that was fun. She determinedly didn’t look at me as she pointed me out to her friend. Charming. Also, she is a year eight now, and I wanted to ask her where her mother was and if she knew she was at this film. I would hope not! Because I am one of those people. I will judge you if you send your kid to watch Daniel Radcliffe have a mental breakdown on film without some sort of written permission or mental health issue of your own. I will. I mean, I saw Silence of the Lambs when I was roughly nine years old due to being left at home with nothing to do and a whole slew of VHS tapes to look at, and look at how I came out. Yeah. Yeah.
Wait, no, staying put–you know the worst part about how many children were there? The fact that most of them (save two!) were girls. Teenie-bopper girls who I just knew, I just knew would scream at the first sign of trouble, and wouldn’t be calm at all, ever, during the film. I know this because I had to put up with teenage girls during the latest Sherlock Holmes as well, and (spoiler alert!) when he goes over those falls, one of them actually began weeping. Robert Downey Jr is okay! Calm down! Hell, Holmes is even okay, see? See? He’s fine! It’s alright, sweetie. Calm down! Watson is less upset than you, and he is Holmes’ WIFE. SHUT UP.
Moving on for real!
So, with the children present (and making me anxious that maybe I was in the wrong theatre), the film began. And holy wow, did it start with a bang.
Here is where I go indepth into talking about the film, so if you would rather see it first, stop reading now.
So, the first change became evident right away. We were going to see more. Obviously. This isn’t something that should surprise someone going in to watching the film. Looking at the cast list and seeing more than two actors should tip you off that you weren’t going to see a film exactly like the play. Also, it’s a horror film–there is going to be graphic, scary-as-hell moments, and that is what you signed on for. Get over it.
That said, I felt physically ill about halfway through the film from my stomach clenching each time a shocking-scary moment happened. Not to mention my nerves were rattled by all the teenage girl screams.
That said, the film version of the story was well suited for the medium. You get more stories of children dying (and more visuals, as you see them die in most cases), more crazy women channelling dead boys, and more flashes of the woman in black than your–or at least, my–stomach can handle. It was altered from the frame of the play, where you have an older Kipps writing down his story to be acted out by a younger man; rather, you are watching it in ‘live time’, where Arthur is sent to the home of a widow in a small town in the middle of way-out-there-nowhere England to sort out legal papers after the widow dies. He is a man in mourning (or has been for four years) since his wife died in childbirth. His son his four. Daniel Radcliffe is forlorn. That is the mood of the rest of the film.
Side note: when did Daniel Radcliffe get so angular? I like that. I like a face that is handsome, yet also has cheekbones that could double as letter openers. It is no longer inappropriate to think he’s hot, right? Because he is playing men now, since he is one, and I’m allowed to think he’s attractive without being creepy. Right? Right?
Anyway, Sad Daniel heads off to the country, planning to meet his son there in a few days after he gets through all this dull business with being a lawyer and looking at papers and going to the house in the middle of a marsh that can’t be gotten to at all times and has its own graveyard and no one in the village wants to go there. Ever.
Oh, maybe something bad will happen there! Hmm.
Honestly, the film gets intense pretty quick. The moment the film opens on three little girls (one assumes triplets) playing with their tea set before spotting something (or someONE, dun dun DUN) and then jumping out of their attic window together, you are basically on edge. Especially when there is a child on the screen. Or Daniel, since he generally looks nervous/sweaty/anxious/very manly, rawr.
The house is insane. Honestly, if I were Arthur Kipps, I’d take a occupation change over going into the house to do any work whatsoever. It looks dirty, for starters, and then there is all the dust and mud and crazy ass women in black…I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem worth it, you know? Also, if I were haunted by my crazy sister, I would move, I think. That is something I don’t understand. If your house was haunted by your insane sister, you would surely consider relocation. Trying something different than being horrified day-in, day-out, you know?
So, differences from the play (since this is getting long): more cast members (kudos to Ciarin Hinds, though, as he is generally amazing and more so in this film as the mourning father of one of the many dead children the village has), more scary moments, and a completely different ending than what you find in the play. Instead of the chilling realization that there was no woman in black hired by Mr.Kipps to make the telling of the story more realistic, and in fact she was just appearing to the young actor (and the audience, oooOOooo), you get Arthur Kipps trying to save his son from being hit by a train (after being lured out by the woman in black onto the tracks) and dying as well. However, since the woman is thankful to Arthur for reuniting her and her dead boy (that involved a scene where Daniel is under the marsh mud in a sort of terrifyingly messy effort) she doesn’t keep his boy, as she does the other children. She will never forgive, she whispers creepily, so will keep up with the child snatching, but Daniel can go on to a better place with his son and his four-years-dead-but-still-looking-lovely wife. So…that’s nice.
Highlights: The woman. She was terrifying even when she didn’t have CGI’d eye sockets. She would appear suddenly just out of focus behind Daniel and you would want to vomit or cry over the fact that he didn’t see her. Or maybe be relieved. Who knows! However you react to things.
The little child actors. Seriously, acting like you’ve swallowed lye is probably not something a child actor can really pull on their experiences to create, and yet BAM, that little girl did it. They were all good, though special mention goes to the adorable young Kipps boy. So cute.
The soundtrack. Dramatic violins! Swells of music! Perfectly timed and perfectly played. Hammar Horror, you make good scary movie music.
The plot. So very different from the play and the book, and yet it worked. It wasn’t made campy, it wasn’t made too dreadful, it was just awful enough to be plausible (in a scary movie kind of way). The only part that I thought was a bit unnecessary was the whole wife dying during childbirth thing. Why not have her die with son Kipps like it happens in the play? Hmm. Maybe to make the whole ‘reunited in death’ thing alright, I guess? Arthur was pretty broken already, I suppose if his child died and he lived on, the ending would be more dismal than just the woman going on with her crazy hijinks while Arthur and his family get to pass on together.
So, all that said, I’d give the film five stars out of five. This isn’t about comparing, honestly, the play to the film to the book to whatever. This is about the film, and the film alone, and it was amazing. It was terrifying, it was thrilling, and there were parts where I had my eyes closed for about a minute straight since the music was swelling and Arthur was walking towards a spooky noise, and we all know what that means:
Scary shit is going to happen.
Well done, again, Hammar Horror. Well done.